Jake Clemons | The US born but Quebec happy saxophonist

In March 1988, 8-year-old Jake Clemons attended his first E Street Band show. “I not only heard the band for the first time, it was also the first time in my whole life that I heard rock ‘n’ roll,” says the musician about the legendary formation to which she now belongs. Meeting the adopted Quebecer who now knows his rock’n’roll very well and who nowadays frequents the provincial stages.

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Dominic late

Dominic late
The press

How did Jake Clemons become a Quebec resident? “It’s always love or work that moves you,” replies the man, who says he grew up “on every shore” of America because his father, a member of the United States Navy, was often asked to care for his little ones pack.

So work or love in his case? In the name of love, the big guy moved to the Laurentians a little over five years ago with a Quebec flight attendant (and speaking French) he met on the plane with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. which he joined in 2012.

“Let’s say it felt good to be able to chat with someone my age,” he admits with a sheepish smile at the birth of their relationship; his comrades within the group are all in their seventies now. Smart septuagenarians, yes, but septuagenarians nonetheless. “You’re wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it was nice to be able to talk to someone I had a little bit more in common with. »

Jake Clemons, son of a Southern Baptist Obedience (a very conservative evangelical Christian denomination) father, was long saved from this immoral disaster commonly known as rock ‘n’ roll, the family’s record player playing only gospel and marching band music . His ears will remain virgin to electric guitars until this epiphanic 1988 extravaganza, where he’ll finally see his Big Man uncle in action in all his extravagant glory and get hooked on the saxophone.

“It was a very intense evening, but apart from the music, it was the energy that prevailed in the room that immediately captivated me. I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe how strong it was! »

A difficult decision

Jake Clemons had just released his first EP, It’s on, when his colossal uncle, 69, took his saxophone to the afterlife forever in June 2011. Bruce Springsteen will explain that the departure of the one he has literally and figuratively relied on for almost four decades has been as confusing to him as if planet earth had lost its rain.

Jake, to whom Clarence was “like a father,” had already followed him down the road just in case from the tour Magic, in 2007. For a while, Big C’s numerous health issues had made the bosses’ marathon shows increasingly taxing.

He had told me for years, “When I’m gone, you will replace me. And I found that totally ridiculous! I couldn’t imagine that happening. So much so that when I accompanied him in 2007 I hadn’t learned any songs. But when I got the call from Bruce in 2012, it was a difficult decision.

Jake Clemons

A difficult decision to join a group filling stadiums and arenas around the world? While such procrastination may seem absurd, by this time Jake Clemons was already constructing his own work, with a certain sense of the chorus firmly lodged in the ears of the unifying rock lover.

“It was a difficult decision because I felt like I was already on my own path, but I also felt that I had a responsibility,” recalls the man whose last album eyes on the horizon (2019), is a powerful synthesis of alternative rock, soul, punk and folk that focuses more on his voice than his saxophone.

A few days later, Jake is drinking with his friend, songwriter and actor Glen Hansard in a New York bar. “Glen said to me, ‘You don’t have a choice, from now on you have to become two people.’ And just as the words came out of her mouth Two by Ryan Adams started playing. » Keyword of this song: It takes two when it used to take one.


PHOTO TONY DEJAK, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVE

Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen on stage in Cleveland in February 2016

“It was one of those weird cosmic moments. It was there that I realized that I had to agree to carry the torch, to play this role, and that I also had to give everything for my career, to remain myself. »

Even though his own albums are always viewed through the lens of his connection with the boss? “I understand how I could view it in a negative light, but that would be irresponsible and ungrateful of me. The pros far outweigh the cons: I am in a unique place in history and am the apprentice of these legends from whom I am learning to create a show that transcends the present moment, that offers a catharsis that… Jake hesitates. “I’m learning on E Street how to create a show that can change someone’s life. »

One last time?

Despite his small family being based in Quebec, Jake Clemons, 42, had never visited its vast territory with his music, which he’s fixing on the stages of several festivals this summer thanks to his new association with Montreal box Bonsound. “I love Montreal and Quebec because culture has real value here, essential value,” he explains in English, although his French is still a little too rudimentary.

Jake Clemons once said in an interview that he should breathe easier as soon as he returns to Canada because he’s never afraid of being shot here. A charged judgment that he does not deny.

I’m only speaking from my own experience and don’t want to invalidate anyone else’s, but in Canada I’ve been stopped by the police three times, and twice because they wanted to offer me help.

Jake Clemons

One day he finds himself at the edge of a freeway trying to track down the blown phone that his wife had left on the roof of the car. “As soon as I saw the police coming, I said to myself, ‘That’s it, I’m going to jail.’ But the policeman wanted to offer me to block the traffic! I was shocked. »

And the upcoming Bruce Springsteen tour, which kicks off on January 1stah February 2023 in Tampa, is this the last of the E Street Band?

“I hope it wasn’t the last, but at the same time I understand the fans for imagining it could be because it’s a fact of life too. But we want nothing to ever stop. I never wanted this job because I wished Clarence could continue performing. There he was happiest. I wish he could stay on stage forever. »

Jake Clemons will be a guest at the Festivent de Lévis on August 4th, at the Place Laval in Gatineau on August 5th and at the Festival international Rythmes du monde de Saguenay on August 14th.

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